Making ARPA Work for You: Improving Digital Government With ARPA Funding
As the country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, many are looking to take the lessons learned during the crisis to return stronger than before. With the creation of The American Rescue Plan (ARPA), the federal government has created the funding channels that allow organizations at a variety of levels to put their recovery plans into action.
Providing $1.9 trillion in emergency relief funding to business owners, governments, and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is looking to ARPA to both help offset the lost tax revenue from one year of the pandemic as well as fund their communities’ economic recovery moving forward. During this transition from crisis to recovery, smart organizations will identify the ways to leverage the lessons learned and efficiencies developed during the crisis and use ARPA funding to build the solutions that strengthen their processes for the future.
The Future Came Early
While digital government was evolving prior to 2020, the pandemic crisis kicked the adoption of digital solutions into overdrive. From shopping to food delivery to utility bills, the convenience of online services became an absolute necessity in an environment that demanded less in-person interaction.
That was also the case for government services. They were forced to re-think everyday operations in order to keep residents and employees safe and informed, while continuing to provide critical services when the community needed them most.
As a result, many governments sought solutions that kept in-person interaction to a minimum, while maximizing the quality of services that needed to be maintained. Granicus’ Civic Engagement Platform helped organizations transform end-to-end interactions for residents, allowing a more cohesive and efficient experience that made dealing with government easier when in-person services weren’t always available.
Starting with a critical feature of any digital experience, the website homepage, the most digitally mature organizations created experiences that were intuitive and seamless from the first point of contact. Clearly mapped digital services provided online access to critical services such as social services, permit applications, license renewals, tax collections, and many others, allowing communities to run smoothly while residents stayed at home. But governments also discovered benefits for their staff, creating back-end workflows and efficiencies that saved staff workhours. Modernizing the public meeting experience, collaborating remotely on materials, and collecting public feedback from any location were just a few of the ways that staffs were able to leverage digital services during the pandemic.
When the Pandemic Ends, Digital Services Will Remain
While many of these digital services became necessary during the pandemic, they remain popular even as the country begins to return to normal. Surveys show that many workers prefer and are looking to maintain remote work environments. With the rising popularity in a variety of digital services growing, it’s no surprise that government is also being influenced.
The convenience and efficient nature of digital services will remain even when the crisis of the pandemic is gone. And in the same way that trips to the grocery store or fast-food delivery have been impacted by digital services, citizens will look to their governments to meet their needs. Not everyone likes to go to City Hall to take care of their license forms!
That’s where ARPA funding comes in. Understanding the importance of technology in the recovery and growth of the post-pandemic country, Congress identified infrastructure as an area to receive funding as part of the plan. For those governments who implemented digital services in reaction to the immediate needs of the pandemic, ARPA funding provides the means to evolve their solutions to further modernize the resident experience.
With funding available through the ARPA, governments can not only update their customer service, but further develop efficient solutions for civic engagement and build their relationship with their residents.
As communities continue to deal with pandemic-related changes, ramp up vaccinations, reopen, and begin their paths to recovery, they should invest in building human-centered websites to serve as a digital front door, enabling easy access to services and information while helping communities become more resilient for future crises. They also require tools that enable clear, trustworthy information that can be quickly distributed across multiple channels.
Making the Case for Technology With ARPA Funding
As part of the ARPA Funding application, organizations must prove why funds will benefit their community. A centralized digital hub that includes a robust website and services to facilitate residents’ needs for information, to initiate government processes or requests, or apply for permits and licenses can create a significant resident transformation. This kind of foundational transformation to how citizens interact with their government creates benefits that last beyond the post-pandemic phase, standing as a new way to engage with government that is both efficient convenient.
In order to best position for ARPA funds, organizations must communicate a clear understanding of the goals for their digital services. Consider the following areas that can be impacted by implementing a digital hub to government services:
- Improved deliverability of communications with a FedRAMP-authorized solution for write-once, publish everywhere, multichannel digital communications
- Enhanced customer service, easing interactions for the more than 60% of citizens who experience a problem while accessing online government services, leading to more in-person visits and phone calls
- Lower costs by boosting transactions that occur online. Today less than 22% of all government transactions occur digitally, and unnecessary contacts with customers drive high costs regardless of channel. Ongoing cost-savings as budget-impacted organizations stand to save up to $120k in salary by adopting low-and no-code solutions.
While a large funding pool, ARPA funds will be quickly dispersed. Having a smart strategy for funding requests is important. Having a plan that will allow an organization to request funds quickly is vital.
Granicus’ American Rescue Plan Resource Center provides those looking to request ARPA funds with the tools, tips, and guides to effectively connect with the funding options available to them. Whether experienced at government funding programs or looking for early guidance, these resources are valuable for any organization looking to fuel their recovery with ARPA funds.